Budget Stalemate Persists due to Medicaid Disagreement - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Budget Stalemate Persists due to Medicaid Disagreement

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Richmond lawmakers are bracing for a continued stalemate on the state budget. The elephant in the room is Medicaid expansion, a provision of the Affordable Care Act Democrats like and Republicans loathe - and neither side is giving in without a fight.

But conference committee members say they are making progress on the state budget, and could finish their work by early next week. But with just days left in the regular session, a deal on Medicaid expansion still seems as distant as it did three months ago.

“We're still working towards a goal of getting out of here March 8, that's always been our plan,” said 25th District Delegate Steve Landes (R).

That's an optimistic plan for budget conferees, who have just eight days to strike a deal with neither side budging on Medicaid expansion.

“I think of all the programs that Virginia can rely on, in my opinion Obamacare is the least among them,” said 76th District Delegate Chris Jones (R).

In a meeting Wednesday, House Republicans said Governor Terry McAuliffe threatened not to sign a bill without Medicaid expansion, but the governor's office says that is untrue.

“The house leadership has let their angst about President Obama influence their thinking about Marketplace Virginia and that's unfortunate,” said 9th District Senator Donald McEachin (D).

Senate Democrats offered to give in on one issue Thursday: requiring audits to the Medicaid system once every four years. House Republicans like the idea, but maintain a deal on Medicaid expansion doesn't belong in the state budget.

“Set Medicaid aside, figure out what direction we want to go,” Landes said.

In the meantime, conferees say they're working out parts of the budget they can agree on.

Landes says the budget could be voted on by next Thursday, but that requires unlikely compromise on a contentious issue.

“It is going to be an impossible task for us to write a plan that satisfies every member of this legislature,” McEachin said.

Budget conferees are prepared to work through the weekend to get a deal done.

The atmosphere in Richmond is reminiscent of last year’s fight over transportation funding, but this issue is much more political and compromise looks less likely with every passing day.

Statement from Governor Terry McAuliffe's Office

The Governor made it very clear in yesterday's meeting with budget conferees that his top priority is to pass a budget as soon as possible. He also expressed his continued optimism that leaders of both parties will come together and do what's best for Virginia's economy and communities and accept federal funds to close the coverage gap, which will provide quality health insurance to up to 400,000 Virginians and generate over $1 billion in economic growth in the state.

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